The Orlando Sentinel reports that the 57-year-old Swedberg announced his move on Monday (April 2). He gave no reason for his decision, but wrote in an e-mail to colleagues and friends, "It is an amicable departure, and I have agreed not to discuss the situation further."
The Sentinel quotes Margot Knight, president of United Arts of Central Florida, as saying, "I'm very surprised. The opera is on the brink of its 50th anniversary. Robert's artistic leadership has been critical to the opera's success. This is a great loss."
Heather Rybka, former director of Grande Masque, the annual fundraising ball for the opera, Orlando Ballet and Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, told the paper that Swedberg's resignation was "very abrupt ... I was shocked when I got the news. It seems so sudden. Usually when any artistic director retires, there's some fanfare."
Jim Ireland, who was hired as Orlando Opera's president and CEO in July, said that the position of general director will probably be eliminated. He told the Sentinel, "Most regional opera companies are run by one individual. I was brought in at the top. Having a general director as well was a duplicative hierarchy as far as cost was concerned."
Ireland has reportedly asked Swedberg to direct Don Giovanni, next season's opening production. Swedberg told the paper, "I have already been working with designer Carey Wong on a concept that will set the opera in New Orleans in the 1780s and [I] will most likely complete that assignment."
During his time with Orlando Opera, Swedberg produced or directed more than 80 opera productions, concerts and recitals, and worked with singers including Cecilia Bartoli, Plšcido Domingo, Jerry Hadley, Samuel Ramey and Denyce Graves.
According to the Sentinel, Swedberg has spent considerable time over the past few years directing in China, Spain and Germany and hopes to continue to focus his energy on directing.